Rutte’s retort in the debate was that escalating the row with Turkey would only have made matters worse. He used the moment to cast Wilders as irresponsible for not understanding “the difference between tweeting from the sofa and running a country.” Stijn van Kessel, a politics lecturer at Loughborough University who researches populist political parties in Europe, said Rutte came across as sufficiently “tough on Turkey by not allowing this minister to speak.” The jibe won him a round of applause.

Of course, the timing of the row is opportune for Erdogan, too. His aim is to pit the West against Turkish Muslims at home and abroad in a bid to expand his presidential powers. Earlier this month, Erdogan likened the German government’s decision to cancel several political rallies to “Nazi practices.” Polls show a tight race between Turkey’s “yes” and “no” camp.

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